The 29-year-old source behind what the U.K.’s Guardian is reporting as “the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history” claims he’s risking everything to expose a “massive surveillance machine” he seems to find genuinely terrifying.
“I’m willing to sacrifice all,” reported whistleblower Edward Snowden told the Guardian, “because I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
The Guardian reports Snowden, a former CIA information technology employee who has since been contracted to work at the National Security Administration offices in Hawaii, copied documents on a massive, NSA surveillance program of U.S. citizens. He contacted the Guardian and Washington Post to blow the whistle on the U.S. government collecting data on phone calls and a separate program, code-named PRISM, that collects the Internet data of foreigners from major Internet companies.
Now, however, Snowden has fled to a hotel in Hong Kong, where he is on the lookout for the very surveillance network he helped expose … and worse.
“I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,” Snowden told the Guardian in an exclusive interview.
“He is deeply worried about being spied on,” the newspaper reports. “He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.”
“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA,” Snowden told the newspaper. “I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets.
“We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week,” he said. “And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”
Snowden spoke other ominous words as well, especially when the Guardian asked him about the probability he’d end up in prison.
“I could not do this without accepting the risk of prison,” he answered. “You can’t come up against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and not accept the risk. If they want to get you, over time they will. … I do not expect to see home again.”
Ominous words aside, Snowden told the Guardian he wants the world more concerned about the government abuses he helped expose.
“I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in,” Snowden said. “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
The Guardian reports during many hours of interviews with Snowden, he only “became emotional” when he stopped to consider the impact of his actions on his family, many of whom reportedly work for the U.S. government.
“The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more,” he said. “That’s what keeps me up at night.”
Watch footage of some of the Guardian’s interviews with Snowden below: